Topic 1.4
Garden of Eden
Helping Christians engage in intelligent and persuasive conversations with doubters and unbelievers

Garden of Eden

First time God speaks to man
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Big bang in bible
Answered here from the Bible

🟥  Was the earth a perfect paradise before Adam?

🟥  Did Adam's sin cause all death on earth?

🟥  Does everyone inherit Adam's sin and guilt?

🟥  Will all people without Jesus as Savior burn in hell forever?

Big bang in bible
See what the Bible actually says
This Discovery section searches the Bible for answers to the questions above and provides information for intelligent and persuasive conversations with doubters and unbelievers

Man's first encounter with God

The earth had been billions of years in the making. Then God comes! And begins personal relationships with humans!!

He chose one man – Adam – to make the first move from physical life to spiritual life. Man had never encountered God before, and now a whole new quality and dimension was added to human life.

People outside of the Garden of Eden lived and died completely unaware of what was happening inside the Garden. As it is even to this day, for reasons we don't understand, God chooses to reveal himself to some people but not to others, mostly a consequence of time and place.

– MORE –
What happened
in the Garden?
Eden storyQ&A Garden of Eden
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Eden story

The story of the Garden of Eden – man's first encounter with God – is told in Genesis 2:8 - 3:24.

'The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' (Genesis 2:15-17).

The Garden of Eden is both a time and a place. The story is well known, but highlights and major themes are in Topic 1.4.1, and answers to frequently asked questions are in Topic 1.4.2.

According to Bible genealogy (see 1.3.3), and general agreement among Bible scholars, the time was approximately 4000 BC.

The Bible says that the Garden of Eden was at or near the headwaters of four named rivers. Even though the names of two of the rivers have changed and are now impossible to identify precisely, it appears that this garden (special place) was in Iraq (formerly Mesopotamia, known as the cradle of civilization) between the Tigris and Euphrates, near the Persian Gulf.

Derived doctrines

Everyone even remotely knowledgable about the Bible knows that the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is foundational theology for Christians, Muslims and Jews. Many different belief systems have developed from this story over the centuries.

Doctrines are the teachings of churches, mosques and synagogs. All major religious groups have splintered many times over the doctrines – and are still splintering today – with each group claiming to have the correct understanding of the scriptures.

The original Hebrew text of the Eden story is not in question. The differences are only in the interpretation. The Bible studies here contain links to the Hebrew text with character-by-character translation into English by the world's best Hebrew linguists.

Tap the strip below if you want to read from the original text, stripped from all tradition and church doctrine:

Hebrew-to-English Interlinear Translation
Eden story / starting Genesis 2:8 ...

The Bible studies here display all relevant scripture verses on each issue, to help people find the reasons for WHAT and WHY to believe, direct from the Bible, without being steered by any particular tradition or doctrine.

Most Bible studies elsewhere use the fill-in-the-blanks method to affirm what most people in the group already believe ... to make sure desired answers are given ... and to make everyone feel good by thinking that they have participated in a thorough study.

The Bible studies here use the Socratic method of study for raising any and all hard questions ... objectively searching the Bible for answers ... and thinking deeply about how to put it all together for coherent understanding and presentation.

For people today, the doctrinal issues derived from the Eden story are more important than details of the story itself.


This subject in six parts
Six separate Bible studies are necessary to adequately cover this subject.
This page is a summary of the six supplemental studies listed in this panel.
What the Bible says about the Garden of Eden and major theological doctrines developed from the Eden story is far too much to learn in a single session. You can bookmark this page and come back to study the parts.


Everyone guilty for what Adam did?

Sin of an ancestor

The story of Adam and Eve raises this theological question: Does God ever hold a person guilty for the sins of another?

How we answer this question here sets the pattern for how we understand sin and eternal life in all parts the Bible.

A majority of Christians – Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox – have been taught that the full guilt for Adam's sin is placed on every human being and that, without salvation through Jesus, everyone will burn in hell forever because of it, even apart from their own sin, and even if they never heard of Adam or Jesus. Everyone, tradition says, is born guilty and condemned to hell.

This doctrine is known as original sin, inherited sin, transmitted sin and ancestral sin.

None of these terms appear anywhere in the Bible.

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Trace to Saint Augustine 400 AD
The concept of original sin was originated long after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and formation of the early church. The doctrine did not come from Jesus' teachings but rather from the way some theologians began interpreting the words of the Apostle Paul in the 5th chapter of Romans.
The first known mention of this concept was by Irenaeus in the 2nd century. In the 5th century it was popularized by Saint Augustine and gradually became church doctrine. Luther and Calvin retained it in the reformations of the 16th century.
Predestination and purgatory are also doctrines from Saint Augustine not taught by Jesus.
TAP for reasons why people are able to interpret scripture more accurately today than Saint Augustine could interpret it sixteen hundred years ago.
1.1.1  Saint Augustine
The doctrine of original sin was constructed from these three verses:
'Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.' – Romans 5:12
'Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.' – Romans 5:18
'For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.' – I Corinthians 15:21-22
That's it! All there is!
There are 31,102 verses in the Bible, but these are the three upon which the doctrine of original sin is built.
Christians talk about original sin as through it is a theme that runs through the Bible. Not so. It is derived from just these three verses.
If Adam caused such a horrific change in human nature and the course of human history, we would expect the Bible to make more than three vague references to him.
Tap below to see four other verses (off-point) that Christians sometimes cite as additional support the doctrine of original sin.
Tap to open ...
Three other verses sometimes cited for support

Many people over-reach with these so-called additional 'proof-texts' they say support the concept of original sin. Notice that these verses never even mention Adam.

  • Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me' (Psalm 51:5). This verse simply says that King David was born into a sinful world and that his mother, like everyone, was a sinner.
  • 'Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies' (Psalm 58:3). This verse simply says that people have free will and a sin nature which become evident at a very early age (obviously not at birth because newborn babies don't spread lies).
  • 'Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath' (Ephesians 2:3).  The verse simply says that everyone has a sinful nature (essential for free will) ... the sinful nature is why everyone sins ... for which everyone deserves punishment. This doesn't make a case for the universal guilt of Adam's sin.
– MORE –
Everyone guilty
for Adam's sin?
Study Romans 5
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Deep study on original sin

The concept of original sin is derived primarily from a few verses written by the Apostle Paul in the fifth chapter of Romans. TAP orange button for a deep study of that scripture.

Our sin nature

The Bible teaches clearly that we have a sin nature (Romans 7:15-18), but that is not the same as saying we have original sin.

Everyone sins, individually, because of our sin nature ... our propensity to sin ... wanting to become our own god in charge of our own life.

Why do we have a sin nature? Because God gave us free will. Free will would be meaningless – not free at all – unless we sometimes exercise it in a wrong way.

And why do we have free will? Because God loves us and desires a reciprocal relationship with us. Free will – with all its risks – is essential for real love.


about Adam and original sin

BIBLE INTERPRETATION on this site is guided by the final words of Jesus to his disciples:
'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
'Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.'
– Jesus (Matthew 28:18)


All authority is from Jesus (verse above). Not church, not tradition, not Saint Augustine, not even Apostle Paul.

When we must choose between two or more possible interpretations, we should always choose the interpretation most in accord with what Jesus said.

With regard to Adam and original sin, what did Jesus say? Nothing. Complete silence. Nothing there, so nothing to talk about. There is no record of Jesus ever even mentioning Adam's name. Jesus talked only about our own choices and our own sins.

Original sin is a concept developed by theologians hundreds of years after Jesus and is defended now primarily on the basis of church tradition rather than actual words of scripture.

We should not add to Jesus' teachings, especially when the add-on is contradictory.


Jesus said that our mission is to 'make disciples.' The doctrine of original sin is a man-made barrier to Christian faith and a hindrance to our mission. It demeans the character of God, causing doubters and unbelievers to see God as cruel and vindictive rather than loving and just.

Relevant statements by Jesus

Jesus said nothing about original sin. That doctrine was created by theologians hundreds of years later. But Jesus did make some statements that contradict that doctrine:

The closest thing Jesus said on the subject of inherited sin is in John 9:1-3: 'As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'

In John 3:18 Jesus said, 'Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.' By this statement – 'whoever does not believe' (personal choice) – Jesus is saying that people are not already condemned at birth.

John 5:24, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.' By this statement – 'will not be condemned' (future tense) – Jesus is saying that people are not already condemned at birth.

John 15:22 Jesus said, 'If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.' By this statement – 'would not be guilty of sin' (conditional) – Jesus is saying that people are not already condemned at birth.


against original sin

✓ REASON 1. Jesus didn't teach it
The panel above shows that Jesus didn't teach the doctrine of original sin. Jesus didn't even mention it, or anything like it. In fact, he spoke against it. That is reason enough, but there are more reasons:
✓ REASON 2. God knew everyone would sin
'God saw all he had made, and it was very good' (Genesis 1:31). It is blasphemous to say that God didn't know what he was doing, couldn't foresee the future, and that one man could foul God's master plan. God knew full well what would happen when he gave humans free will, a risk essential for genuine love. No person can wreck God's marvelous creation.
✓ REASON 3. God's love and justice
It is difficult to conceive of anything more unloving and unjust than to condemn billions of people – perhaps a hundred billion or more – to eternal torment for something they did not do or even know about ... especially those to whom he did not offer a means of salvation. That notion is as far from love and justice as anything anyone could possibly imagine and is contrary to God's character.
✓ REASON 4. Human free will
Responsibility and punishment for personal choices – the exercise of our individual free will as taught extensively throughout scripture – become meaningless if everyone is born with maximum guilt and subject to maximum penalty. In fact, this notion is the same as saying that people really don't have free will, since most people have died without knowing about God's offer of salvation through Jesus and thus didn't have any choice in the matter.
✓ REASON 5. God's will
'He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance' (2 Peter 2:9). God would not violate his own will by designing life so that everyone is doomed to perish from the moment of birth, with most are given no means of salvation.
✓ REASON 6. Adam not our representative
Many Christians argue that Adam was the first person and thus the representative of the human race, so all of his descendants must also bear the guilt for his sin. Actually, Adam was probably not the first human (see 1.3), and nowhere does the Bible say that God appointed him to be federal head of the human race. Furthermore, nowhere does the Bible say that people are individually guilty before God for the sins of their leader, even though they may suffer worldly consequences.
✓ REASON 7. Confession not possible
'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness' (I John 1:9). A theme throughout scripture is that confession is a necessary prerequisite for removing the penalty for guilt. It is impossible for people to confess original sin because they didn't commit the sin.
✓ REASON 8. Father's guilt never inherited
'The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father' (Deuteronomy 24:16). 'The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers' (Ezekiel 18:20). The Bible teaches that people will stand before God at judgment for their own sin, not for sin of their fathers.
✓ REASON 9. Old Testament doesn't say it
If Adam's sin were the cause of death and eternal damnation for all people, we would expect the Old Testament to speak frequently about him and his monumental sin, but Adam is never mentioned again after Genesis 5 (except in a long list with hundreds of other names in I Chronicles 1 ). The curses God placed on Adam for his sin did not include corruption of future generations. Adam is not blamed for Cain's murder of Abel or for the flood. The Old Testament stresses consequences for our own sins without ever even a hint that the guilt of one person is inherited by another.
✓ REASON 10. New Testament doesn't say it
This is debatable because many Christians – perhaps most – do believe that the Bible teaches the doctrine of original sin, but very few Christians have ever personally studied it from the Bible. They believe it because it is what they have been told from centuries of tradition. The New Testament never mentions this concept, except possibly for three vague comments from the Apostle Paul. This Topic 1.4 and Topic 1.4.3 study Paul's comments and conclude that the Bible teaches that everyone has a sin nature because of free will but does not teach that everyone is born with the guilt of Adam's sin.


Death on earth before Adam

Earth has never been immortal

Everything physical is mortal (dies), even non-living things, including stars (we see it happening now through telescopes), and eventually the earth itself will die.

'The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way ...' (2 Peter 3:10-11)

If there were no death before Adam, that would mean that God created everything immortal, but there is nothing in the Bible to even hint that the earth was once immortal.

Human condition

The human condition, like the condition of everything else in God's creation, is that we eventually die. Death is not a design flaw or mistake. God designed everything to die, a practical requirement for continuous growth and change.

Death preceded sin

There is ample evidence that the cycle of life-and-death was functioning in the world long before 4000 BC, the time the Bible says sin first entered the world 'through' Adam' (not 'because' of Adam;)' see 1.4.3 for study of Romans 5. There been death on earth since the beginning of time.

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Sin cause of death?
Come back for this

Sin is not cause of death

Since there was death on earth before sin, sin cannot be the cause of death (see 1.3).

Most Christians believe that sin causes death only because that is what they have always been told, not because of their own Bible study.

Romans 5:12, the principle verse quoted for this view, states: '...just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned ...'

The verse does not say that Adam's sin caused death in the world. The verse says explicitly that death is 'because ALL sinned.'

The verse says that ever since Adam sinned – the first sinner – final death now comes to humans IN THIS WAY: death through sin; i.e., final death now comes after resurrection, judgment and punishment in hell.

In other words, sin has intervened in the life-and-death process ever since man received and violated the first law from God. Instead of simply dying– like everything else in God's creation – for man it is now death through sin. There is now accountability for sin before final death.

The good news – the 'gospel' – is that there is one exception. Instead of going through SIN to eternal death, an optional way (our choice) is going through JESUS to eternal life.

This is explained in detail in the study of Romans 5 (see 1.4.3) ... the study of death before Adam (see 1.3.2) ... and the study of death and hell (see 3.5.1).

Some say 'spiritual death'

Jesus and the New Testament writers spoke often about 'eternal life.' It is the central theme.

To connote the opposite of eternal life, traditional Christians often say 'spiritual death,' a term that is an oxymoron to everyone else. It is an invented term, not in the Bible.

'Spiritual death' is usually a polite way of saying burn in hell forever. People who use the term seem to be saying that, after bodily resurrection and judgment, death doesn't really mean death but really means living forever, in torture, unable to die.

TAP blue bar to see how this terminology is contrary both to normal usage and to the character of God.

Tap to open ...
Problem with term 'spiritual death'

Problems with 'spiritual death' concept

The term 'spiritual death' creates considerable confusion. Usually it doesn't mean to the listener – especially a doubter or unbeliever – what it means to the speaker. It's a kind of insider code talk.

Here are some problems with the term:

  • OXYMORON. It doesn't make sense to redefine 'death' to mean 'life.' The concept of death and the concept of life forever in hell are mutually exclusive.
  • LIFE PRECEDES DEATH. It doesn't make sense to say that a person can have spiritual death without first having spiritual life.
  • COMPREHENSION. God warned Adam that, if he eats the forbidden fruit, he 'will surely die.' Adam could not have comprehended anything other than the ordinary death he observed outside of the Garden. There is no need to give death a different meaning.
  • DEATH IS NOT PUNISHMENT. Birth-aging-death is the natural order of all life, existing before sin, a necessity to prevent suffocation from overcrowding and to make room for new life and improvement. Even stars and planets die, unrelated to decisions about good and evil (see 1.3). There is no need to give death a spiritual twist and say that it is punishment for sin. The punishment for sin is time in hell and denial of eternal life. In hell, death will be merciful.
  • PEOPLE WHO NEVER HEARD. There were many millions of people who lived before Adam sinned (see table above). On what basis would they have eternal life in heaven? Or on what basis would they burn forever in hell? They simply didn't know anything about what God was doing, and God had not yet given any revelation or command. Who can say with scriptural certainty that those people, and others who have never heard, don't just die (end of existence)?

Death means 'death'

We should use words only in the way they are sensible and understood by others. People understand the word 'death' to mean end of existence, not the beginning of a new kind of life.

What does 'die' mean?

God said to Adam: 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.' (Genesis 2:16-17). In other words, Adam will no longer have access to the Tree of Life – will lose opportunity for eternal life – and therefore will 'die' (cease to exist).

How we interpret 'die' in the story of Adam and Eve sets the pattern for how we interpret death and eternal life in other parts of the Bible.

THE INTERPRETATION ON THIS SITE is that the word 'die' is simply its normal meaning: final end of existence (but now coming after physical death, resurrection, judgment and time in hell). After punishment, no body. No consciousness. Nothing. Eternal death. In Jesus' words: 'die ... burned up ... destroyed ... consumed ... perish' (see 3.4.1), refered to as the 'second death' in Revelation.

The only exception to eternal death is eternal life, offered through Jesus Christ.

People who reject God's offer of eternal life will eventually die in hell. Not live forever in hell, but die in hell, duration and severity dependent upon individual sin and judgment.
What about Children? OK, God does something special. What about adult incompetent? Adult never heard. All guilty?


Even if never heard about Adam or Jesus?

Punishment for sin

Any deep conversation about sin – and original sin in particular – usually raises the question of punishment.

The traditional Christians belief is that sinners without salvation through Jesus will burn in hell, unable to die, for all eternity.

This is the most horrible punishment imaginable.

Doubters and unbelievers cannot see any justice if all unforgiven sinners are arbitrarily punished the same way, forever, unable to die, especially for people who have never even heard about Adam, the sinner, or Jesus, the Savior.

The Bible makes it clear that there is a hell for unforgiven sinners after judgment ... BUT hardly anyone asks where in the Bible it says that people will burn in hell forever. Where does the Bible say that?

The usual response is to quote one or more of these five verses:

'... into hell, where the fire never goes out' (Matthew 18:18),
'... eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels' (Matthew 25:41),
'... eternal punishment ...' (Matthew 25:46),
'... punishment of eternal fire' (Jude 7) and
' ... And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever' (Revelation 14:11, in a dream, referring specifically to people in an age to come 'who worship the beast and its image').
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After death ...
See what Bible says
Hell forever?
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However, these verses do not say that any person alive now or in the past will burn in hell forever.

These verses say only that the fire burns forever ... that Satan, his demons and some people in a future age will burn forever ... and that the punishment (sentencing) is eternal (final, i.e., no hope of any reprieve).

Contrary to burning forever, JESUS SAID clearly that people will eventually die, burn up, be destroyed, consumed and perish in the everlasting fire prepared for Satan and his demons.

Tap HERE for study of all 35 Bible verses on this topic.


man-made barriers to faith

It's not about us. It's about them!
Most Christians shrug off the unjust horror of original sin by saying that it really doesn't matter because all anyone needs to do is accept Jesus as Savior and then it's no longer an issue.
Problem is, many people are so turned off by their perception of Christianity that they never get to that point.
Getting it right is not a matter of how original sin affects us, but how it gives other people a wrong understanding of God and becomes a serious barrier to faith, contrary to the mission given to us by Jesus.
Unbelievers think our God – if they even believe he exists – must be cruel and unjust to place the most hideous punishment possible on everyone, even newborn babies, for a sin they didn't commit.
This repulsive image undercuts everything Christians can say about God's love and justice.
People can understand punishment for one's own sins – punishment commensurate with the offense – but original sin is so contrary to love and justice that it can hardly even be imagined.
Spiritual issues should not be decided by tradition, or by what we want to hear, but by what the Bible actually says
People are empowered by information

Internet and social media

People's beliefs today are formed less by institutions (government, universities and churches) than by personal investigation.

Personal relationships and believable answers.

Today the Bible has little or no credibility among most Millennials and GenZs – under age 38 – who now comprise the majority of the U.S. population. They are confused by the inconsistency they hear in Christian talk. Christians say, in this example, that God is a loving heavenly father but at the same time portray him as a cruel monster.

If burning in hell forever for someone else's sin is what the Bible actually says, we would have to accept it. But as this study shows, that is NOT what the Bible says!

people smarter. Internet. Social media.


what people are thinking

Post-Christian culture

We are now living in a post-Christian culture. This does not mean that there is not a large Christian population or that Christianity does not have a powerful effect on American culture.

Post-Christian means that Christianity is no longer the default (generally accepted) view, no longer the foundation of our culture. Christian influence and appeal is rapidly declining.
Interviewers went out on the street and asked random people what they think about God
Their answers are very informative for Christians who want to engage doubters and unbelievers in spiritual conversation.
Watch video snippets below

Christians who use church language in talking with secular people often fail to recognize that a word may have a different meaning when processed by the listener. This is often a big hinderance to good conversation.

As part of the first four topics here on Origin (How did we get here?), this site has videos to help Christians get into the minds of young doubters and unbelievers, the new majority in our country. These are the key people for whom we have responsibility for explaining the Bible (same Bible) and the gospel (same gospel) but in understandable language for the modern world.

Listen to what people say when asked what they think about some common Christian words like truth, sin, judgment, heaven, hell and salvation. Tap below for Video 4 Street Interviews:

Tap for video clips

Dominant beliefs

In brief, here are the dominant beliefs expressed by the thirty-six millennial-age people in the four street interview videos. Their beliefs mirror the post-Christian worldview:

God – if there is one – is unknowable, like a power, force or energy, not a person.

Human origin is through evolution by chance beginning with the Big Bang; the universe and life are big mysteries.

The purpose of life is to help one another and to create a better and more just society.

There are no absolutes; everything is relative to time and situation; the Bible is an ancient religious book written by men, and it has no supreme authority.

There is no sin in the biblical sense, against God, only human mistakes and hurts to others.

Hell is a joke; maybe there's some kind of heaven after death, but no one knows.

This poses the communication challenge for Christians in post-Christian culture.

Topics on this site provide biblical conversation material to arouse interest and respect ... help Christians answer the difficult questions ... and tell about Jesus.

Big bang in bible
Garden of Eden

🟩  The world was not paradise before Adam. The Bible says that Adam was in he Garden of Eden about 4000 BC. Archaeologist have found people and cities that existed long before that time.

🟩  Adam's death did not cause all death on earth. Therefore, Adam's sin is not the cause of death on earth (studied in depth in Topic 1.3.2). Nothing in the Bible even suggests that God's physical creation was ever immortal. (Immortal means never dies.)

🟩  Everyone inherits Adam's death, not his guilt. He was the first person to have a personal encounter with God ... first to receive a commandment from God ... first to receive an offer of eternal life from God ... first to rebel against God ... first in a new line of spiritual people subject to accountability and punishment from God (studied in depth in Topic 1.4).

🟩  Hell is real, but people won't burn in hell forever. Jesus said people will eventually die, burn up, be destroyed, consumed and perish in the everlasting fire prepared for Satan and his demons (studied in depth in Topic 3.4.1).

🟩  God is not honored when Christians perpetuate a false and repulsive impression of his character.

New material added every week
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